WINSTON-SALEM --Wake Forest's highly touted defense debuted as advertised Thursday night, as the Demon Deacons defeated Presbyterian College 31-7 in the season opener for both teams. The evening got off to a rough start for the Deacs, as Blue Hose running back Demarcus Rouse took a handoff 66 yards deep into Wake Forest territory. Presbyterian would not gain another first down until there were 14 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Deacons spoke of returning to their old opportunistic ways this season, aiming for 30 or more takeaways on the season. The Deacs added 6 to that total on Thursday, picking off 3 Presbyterian passes and recovering 3 fumbles. Brandon Chubb led all defenders with 7 tackles and returned an interception 29 yards for a score. Cornerback Kevin Johnson and Mike Olson tallied one interception apiece.
The offense was a different story, as the wraps came off at least a portion of the new offensive playbook. The result was a leading rusher by the name of Tanner Price who finished with 31 yards and 1 touchdown on 14 carries. Redshirt senior Josh Harris carried the ball 11 times for 29 yards on the night.
The Deacs had most of their success through the air, with the prime target being redshirt freshman Jonathan Williams. Williams snagged a 42-yard Price pass for his very first collegiate catch and finished with 143 receiving yards on 5 catches. Price finished 14-25 for 219 passing yards, and no interceptions.
"I think overall we had some pretty good reads," Price said, "but there's no question that we self-destructed a little bit on offense. But we'll clean that up and we'll be a better team next week."
"I think their whole plan was to stop the run," coach Jim Grobe said after the game. "They gave the offense some problems and certainly gave the defense some problems about the first play of the game on that long run."
Noticeably absent tonight was redshirt senior flanker Michael Campanaro, who has been nursing a nagging hamstring injury of late. The decision to hold him out was a precautionary measure, according to Grobe.
"I think he probably could have played football tonight," Grobe said. "But taking the chance of him going out and really pulling it for real, and missing three or four weeks was not in the cards for us tonight."
For those wondering whether Grobe would hold hard and fast to his suspension of the redshirt policy, 9 true freshmen played in Thursday's contest. One of those was James Looney, who took advantage of his minutes by recovering a Blue Hose fumble in the second half. Before tonight, only 22 total true freshmen saw action in Grobe's first 12 seasons at the helm.
"It (the game) was a real good challenge for our team," Looney said. "Presbyterian played a heck of a game. I guess it's like you have to play every game like it's your last and run around the field and play to your ability."
Next up for the Demon Deacons is a Friday night tussle with ACC foe Boston College. The Deacons hope to build momentum in week two as they seek a return to the bowl season and put themselves in the ACC Atlantic Division mix. Stay tuned to BSD for more analysis from Thursday's game as well as a look ahead to the conference opener at Boston College.